Having kids means that the holidays are extra special. It also means that they can be extra stressful as well because, let’s face it, kids expect presents for Christmas and presents cost money. Smaller kids can usually be taken care of with smaller, less expensive gifts but, the older they get, the more they expect and the more the things that they expect can cost.
Many children, not knowing anything about finances or the financial stress that it puts on mom and dad, come up with Christmas or holiday lists that are huge, putting their parents in the awkward position of having to either spend an awful lot of money or say “no” an awful lot of times. Either way, unless you’re extremely wealthy, it can be very stressful not just financially but also mentally. With that in mind, for those of you who have children we’ve put together some of the Best Tips for Surviving the 2013 Holidays without Going Broke. Enjoy.
- Let your kids know that they won’t get everything on their list. If they are younger, you can explain that Santa only brings one or two gifts to every child. If they are older than you can tell them point-blank that they shouldn’t expect everything. Most won’t, but it helps to let them know ahead of time so that, if they have a special gift that they really want, they can tell you what it is and, if it’s in your budget, you can get that for them and forgo some of the others.
- If your children still believe in Santa Claus, and they think that anything you can’t get he will get for them, let them know that you and Santa “work together” and that it would be against the rules for them to get everything on their list. Be creative. Little kids will believe anything that you tell them as long as it doesn’t seem to ridiculous.
- If your children are older and want to purchase gifts for other family members using “their own” money, make a specific limit for what they can purchase and stick to it. This is not only better for your wallets but also will be seen as more “fair” by all the kids in the family and will cut down on arguments on Christmas day.
- If your children are asking for gifts that are extremely expensive and they have been making money either from doing chores or a part-time job, let them know that if they want that expensive gift, they will have to pitch in part of the money to purchase it. This is a great way to “meet in the middle” and you’d be surprised how many kids are fine with it.
- Get your kids involved in real giving. If they are old enough to understand, take them to a local soup kitchen or shelter and volunteer with them. They will probably moan and groan at first but you’ll be amazed how these types of volunteer activities can inspire them and, even better, it really does build their character.
- If you have older kids and you’re not really sure what they like anymore, giving them a gift card for music, videos or other general items that they like is definitely a good idea and will allow them to purchase what they really want. It will also save you a good bit of time and will save them the time needed to return something that they really don’t like.
- If your children get cash as a gift for Christmas, you should let them spend some of it and make them save some of it as well. Taking all of their gift money and forcing them to save it will only cause resentment and won’t give them the opportunity to enjoy what their relative was trying to do. On the other hand, letting them spend everything probably isn’t a great idea either because it doesn’t teach them any lessons about finances whatsoever.
- Don’t go overboard on gifts. Yes, a pile of gifts 3 feet high under the tree might look impressive but really, do your children need all of that stuff? You would be better to get them three or four things that really mean something, are quality made and will be enjoyed and cherished than a bunch of junk that will keep them occupied for five minutes and then be thrown in the corner and never looked at again.
- Encourage your children to write, text or email a “thank you” note to everyone that gave them a gift. Yes, they will probably moan and groan about having to do it but it is something that will definitely have an effect on the kind of people they are as adults. That truly may be the best gift of all.
Without getting too preachy the simple fact is that the Holidays, including Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or whatever other special day that you celebrate, are really more for family and for celebrating the good things in life. Gift giving is just gravy and, as anyone who has overdone it on Christmas dinner can tell you, too much gravy is sometimes a bad thing. Maybe the best gift that you can give your children is to really spend time with them over the holiday break, doing fun things like making a craft, going to the movies or just watching a Christmas special together. No matter what you do, enjoy the time that you have together with your children because, as any parent can tell you, it doesn’t last forever.